In This Issue

Withdrawal of MMS Proposed Rule – Pipeline Repairs

Editor’s Note: File this under good news / bad news. The good news is that the proposed rule is being withdrawn. The bad news is that a complete re-write of the MMS pipeline rules is in the works, which will look a lot like the DOT / OPS rules. You may want to forward this note to any co-workers who are responsible for MMS-regulated pipelines on the OCS.

MMS has withdrawn a proposed rule that was published in the Federal Register on August 28, 2001 ( 66 FR 45236 ). The proposed rule required all lessees, lease operators, and pipeline right-of-way holders to submit in writing the measures they plan to take and the procedures they plan to follow to ensure the safety of offshore workers and to prevent pollution before beginning any operation that involves cutting into a pipeline or opening a pipeline at a flange. Issues raised during the comment period for the proposed rule led MMS to reevaluate its pipeline permitting procedures. MMS determined that a rewrite of its Subpart J pipeline regulations is a more appropriate course of action. Based on this determination, MMS is withdrawing the proposed rule. The withdrawal of this rule will not diminish the safety of offshore operations.

MMS is authorized to issue and enforce rules to promote safe operations, environmental protection, and resource conservation on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). (The OCS Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq.) defines the OCS.) Under this authority, MMS regulates pipeline transportation of mineral production and rights-of-way for pipelines and associated facilities. MMS approves all OCS pipeline applications, regardless of whether a pipeline is built and operated under Department of the Interior (DOI) or Department of Transportation (DOT) regulatory requirements. MMS also has sole authority to grant rights-of-way for OCS pipelines. The respective responsibilities of DOI and DOT regarding OCS pipelines are defined in a 1996 Memorandum of Understanding between the two Departments.

The comments MMS received on this rule have been helpful in calling attention to certain aspects of their pipeline regulatory program that need upgrading and redefining. Moreover, the review of MMS internal permitting procedures pointed out the need for increased clarification regarding overlapping responsibilities with DOT for OCS pipelines. Therefore, MMS concluded that rather than continue with this rulemaking, they should review and rewrite the regulations under 30 CFR part 250, subpart J -Pipelines and Pipeline Rights-of-Way. MMS will rewrite the new subpart J in close cooperation with DOT’s Office of Pipeline Safety to ensure, to the extent possible, that the two agencies have compatible regulations governing OCS pipelines. MMS will subsequently publish the new subpart J as a proposed rule.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl W. Anderson, Operations Analysis Branch, at (703) 787-1608 or e-mail at